Daniel Barrow, Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry
posted by Kirsten Collins
Wow. I hope Portland explodes with overhead projector projects in the next year.
Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry by Daniel Barrow is both comforting in its familiarity and whimsy, and astounding in its creativity and technical execution. Watching this piece was simply lovely. It was like stepping into a child’s imagination as a favorite picture book comes to life.
Barrow’s live animation technique was novel (there must be other artists working in similar ways, but this was a first for me). He sat in front of an overhead projector, layering sheets of illustrations and then gently moving them around to create moving images. Eyeballs layered over a face swim around and pop out. Annie Sullivan’s disembodied hands layered over a child Hellen Keller make sign language gestures. A boy drags a used Christmas tree down the street. It was amazing how much detail, emotion, and story he was able to create through pairing illustrations, subtle movement, and bringing layers in and out of focus.
The very idea of animating with an overhead projector was surprising and made me smile. But Barrow’s fluidity with the medium trumped the novelty value of an antiquated machine resurrected and pushed to new boundaries. Throughout the piece, I experienced a happy tension between being totally engrossed in the storytelling and constantly amazed by the craftsmanship.
Barrow’s illustrations are old-fashioned in the best sense. In the post-performance Q&A, one audience member commented that his illustrations are reminded her of children’s book from the 1930s. This, combined with the expansive, Christmas-y soundtrack by Amy Linton created a homey, warm vibe. Yet Barrow avoided being too precious with contrasting gruesome imagery and peculiar characters.
At the end of the piece, Barrow layered video with projections. This was the only section in which technical showmanship distracted too much from the storytelling. It was a little jarring to work in video so late in the piece.
Overall, Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry was everything that I love about TBA. I went in with no expectations for what would happen and was totally surprised and delighted. It was unusual and new, creative and personal, intellectual and accessible. This is a piece I would pay to see a second time.